Building the System: Organizing Your Resources and Materials

Getting Better Together

My internet browser always has extra tabs open. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m composing in one of approximately nine open tabs on my Google Chrome web browser. Nine may sound excessive, but it’s actually fewer open windows than my usual mode of operation. And I’m only talking about one application.

Usually, when I plan a lesson or conduct an observation, I’ll have ten or more tabs open, as well as a word processing program and YouTube or Amazon for background music. I admit this is probably not all that healthy when it comes to sustained focus, but there is a method to my madness.

As a Language Arts Instructional Coach, I’m constantly conducting walk-thru observations to inform the type of coaching I’ll give to the teachers on my team. When I go into their rooms to observe, to plan, or to deliver professional development, there are a number of pertinent categories of information that I need to have access to:

  • Common Core Standards
  • The master curriculum documents
  • The teacher’s lesson plans
  • Information about the text that’s being taught
  • More information about the text that’s being taught (it usually takes two tabs)
  • The teacher’s current observation notes
  • The teacher’s past observation notes

These resources help me to accurately assess the degree to which a teacher is aligned to Common Core Standards, amongst other observable actions. This can get messy, so it’s important to align your resources during the summer if you can. Think about your favorite go-to websites for information and organize them using any one of the options below:

  • Create a folder on your web browser where you can store bookmarks (or frequently visited pages). For easier searching, you may want to label each folder according to topic or category.
  • Clean your desktop. All loose files and documents should be neatly placed within folders for easy access. Here are some folder titles that help me stay organized: Templates, Lesson and Unit Plans, Resources for Units, Personal, Presentations, and Photos.
  • Arrange your digital and physical resources in easy-to-reach places. With respect to your physical resources, such as books, a labeled bin or bookcase should suffice. For your digital files, you may want to opt for Dropbox, folders in Google Drive, or a Padlet.

Organizing your resources can sometimes be a chore — but it’s also a task that pays you back in time saved in the future. Remember to consolidate and label. As a matter of fact, I may need to make that a hashtag (#consolidateandlabel); let me open up another tab for that…

Josh Parker is a 2013 NEA Global Fellow and the 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year. He serves the students and staff of Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School in Washington, D.C. as an instructional coach. He is a proud board member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year and is a Teaching Channel Laureate. Connect with Josh on Twitter: @MDTOY2012.

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